1450 - First Cherokee enter the state in the vicinity of Traveler's Rest. Tugaloo Old Town is the
first major Cherokee village.
1540-1 De Soto "visits" the Cherokee and is supposedly one of the first whites seen by the tribe,
although written descriptions of the tribe by the Spanish note the wide range of colors in the
tribe, from "negro" (black) to light skinned and "fair," according to Moyano and Pardo.
1650 - Cherokee commanded more than 40,000 square miles in the southern Appalachians by
1650 with a population estimated at 22,500.
1715 - Massive uprising against North and South Carolina
1721 - First treaty with whites - South Carolina
1738 - Smallpox eradicates 25% of the Cherokee Nation. Nancy Ward is born
1753 - Smallpox epidemic
1755 - Battle of Taliwa - Accounts differ on exact events, however, the Creek, who greatly
outnumber the Cherokee, attack the Cherokee line five times. During the fifth attack elderly
Cherokee leader Kingfisher is slain. His teenage wife picks up his weapon, and chanting a
Cherokee war song, Nancy Ward leads the Cherokee to victory, routing the Creek. The battle
marked successful expulsion of the Creek from much of North Georgia. The only major
remaining Creek settlement was near present Rome, Georgia.
1760-1762 - Cherokee War (SC)
1773 - First cession of Cherokee land in Georgia
1776-1783 - Impressed by the British during the French and Indian War, the Cherokee side with
them during the American Revolution. The price for the decision is immense. Beginning at about
the time of the American Revolutionary War, divisions over continued accommodation of
encroachments by white settlers, despite repeated violations of previous treaties, caused some
Cherokee to begin to leave The Cherokee Nation. These dissidents became known as the
Chickamauga. Led by Chief Dragging Canoe, the Chickamauga made alliances with the Shawnee
and engaged in raids against colonial settlements, aided by the British. Colonel Pickens
destroyed Long Swamp village (1782) and forced the Cherokee to cede land to settlers.
1785 Treaty of Hopewell (SC) - The Cherokee thought this would be the end of the settlers'
invasion of Cherokee land. Within 3 years bitter fighting had erupted as settlers continued to
move into the Cherokee Nation. This treaty is the basis for the term "Talking Leaves." [See
below] Cherokee felt that written words were like leaves, when they were no longer of use they
withered and died.
John Ross is born.
Ross was an important figure in the history of the Cherokee tribe. His father emigrated from
Scotland prior to the Revolutionary War. His mother was a quarter-blood Cherokee woman
whose father was also from Scotland. He began his public career in 1809. Still permitted under
the Constitution at that time, The Cherokee Nation was founded in 1820, with elected public
officials. John Ross became the chief of the tribe in 1828 and remained the chief until his death.
Ross, also known as Kooweskoowe, was a leader of the Cherokee Native American tribe. Ross
was born near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, the son of a Scotsman who had gone to live
among the Cherokee during the American Revolution. John Ross's mother was 3/4 Scottish as
At the age of twenty, after having completed his education, he was appointed as Indian agent to
the western Cherokee and sent to Arkansas. He served as an adjutant in a Cherokee regiment
during the War of 1812 and participated in fighting at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the
British-allied Creek tribe.
Ross relocated to Georgia and was chosen as a member of the Cherokee national council in
1817, becoming its president two years later and serving in that capacity for seven years. After
this he became assistant chief of the eastern Cherokee, becoming principal chief the following
year and serving as such until 1839, participating in the drafting of the Cherokee constitution in
During his tenure as chief he opposed displacement of the tribe from its native lands, a policy of
the United States government known as Indian Removal. However, Ross's political rival Major
Ridge signed an unauthorized removal treaty with the U.S. in 1836. Ross unsuccessfully lobbied
against enforcement of the treaty, but those Cherokees who did not emigrate to the "Indian
Territory" by 1838 were forced to do so by General Winfield Scott, an episode that came to be
known as the Trail of Tears. Accepting defeat, Ross convinced General Scott to have supervision
of much of the removal process turned over to Ross.
In the Indian Territory, Ross helped draft a constitution for the entire Cherokee nation in 1839,
and was chosen as chief of the nation. He would remain chief until his death.
1791 Treaty of Holston-Cherokee cede land in eastern Tennessee in exchange for President
Washington's guarantee that the Cherokee Nation will never again be invaded by settlers. This
treaty forces Americans to obtain passports to enter Cherokee lands, and granted Cherokee the
right to evict settlers.
1792 The town of Hightower moves from the vicinity of Rome, Georgia to present-day
Cartersville, further east on the Etowah River after a brutal attack on the village by Tennessee
governor John Sevier.
1799-1804 Building of the Augusta to Nashville Road, later known as the Federal Road.
1801 Return J. Meigs appointed "indian agent." Morovians start mission at Spring Place.
1802 President Thomas Jefferson agrees with the state of Georgia to removal of all American
Indians in exchange for the state's claim of western lands.
1804 Cherokee cede Wafford's Tract.
1806 Start of a complex series of events known as Revolt of the Young Chiefs
1811 New Madrid earthquake. Actually 3 separate earthquakes with an epicenter near the town
of New Madrid, Missouri in the southeastern border with Kentucky. The quakes were felt
throughout the Cherokee Nation and sparked what is best described as a religious revival
among the Cherokee. Writer James Mooney would call this movement the "Ghost Dance," after
a similar Western Indian revival.
1812 Shawnee warrior Tecumseh agitates American Indians on the frontier to rise up and
destroy the settlers. A faction of the Creek Indians, the "Red Sticks," revolt, attacking Fort Mims,
Alabama and massacre 250 men, women and children.
1 813-1814 Cherokee warriors fight alongside future president Andrew Jackson during two
campaigns (5 major battles) against the Red Sticks, saving both his army and his life in separate
1814 Jackson demands cessions of 2.2 million acres from the Cherokee.
1817 Cession of land east of the Unicoi Turnpike. (Treaty of Turkey Town, instead of the 2.2
million acres demanded by Jackson.)
1819 Final cession of land in Georgia, and part of a much larger cession, the Cherokee give up
claims to all land east of the Chattahoochee River.
1821 Cherokee warrior Sequoyah finishes his work on a written language (syllabary) for the
tribe. Within six months more than 25% of the Cherokee Nation learns how to read and write.
1822 Georgia begins press for cession of remaining Cherokee lands, citing Jefferson's
1802 commitment to the state.
1828 Gold discovered in Georgia. This discovery was on Cherokee land ceded to the U. S. in 1817
(Duke's Creek), however, gold was soon found inside the Cherokee Nation; Publication of the
Cherokee Phoenix begins with Elias Boudinot, editor.
1830 - Cherokees were displaced from their ancestral lands in North Georgia and the Carolinas
primarily as a result of the Gold Rush around Dahlonega, Georgia in the 1830's. Cherokee evict
encroachers in Beaver Dam on Cedar Creek, a few miles south of present-day Rome, Georgia.
Passage of the Indian Removal Act.
1831 Chief Justice John Marshall rules that the Cherokee have no standing to file suit in the
United States in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia. He then instructs attorney William Wirt on how to
correctly file; Samuel Worcester and others arrested for violation of Georgia law requiring
whites to get permits to work in the Cherokee territory.
1832 The Supreme Court of the United States declares the Cherokee Nation to be sovereign
(Worcester vs. Georgia). This has constitutional implications, disallowing the state of Georgia
from passing any law governing the Cherokee; Elias Boudinot resigns as publisher of the
Cherokee Phoenix under pressure from John Ross because of his editorial support for
removal;Georgia's sixth land lottery and the gold lottery.
1834 The Georgia Guard destroys the printing press in the offices of The Cherokee Phoenix.
1835 Ross and John Howard Payne, in Red Clay, Tennessee, are illegally detained by the Georgia
Guard. Dec. 29 Treaty of New Echota signed in Elias Boudinot's home by members of the Treaty
1838 Deadline for voluntary removal. Georgia Guard had begun round-up 5 days earlier. U. S.
forces under command of Winfield Scott begin roundup in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and
North Carolina. Cherokee are herded into "forts," gradually making their way north to the
Cherokee Agency in southeastern Tennessee.
Once the Cherokees reached Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), tensions ran high and the
suspension of the Cherokee Blood Law was ignored. On June 22, 1839, after the adjournment of
a tribal meeting, some of the prominent signers of the Treaty of New Echota were assassinated,
including the drafter of the Blood Law, Major Ridge, along with John Ridge and Elias Boudinot.
This started 15 years of civil war amongst the Cherokees. One of the notable survivors was
Stand Watie, who became a Confederate general during the American Civil War. The Cherokees
were one of the five "civilized tribes" that concluded treaties with, and were recognized, by the
Confederate States of America.
In 1848 a group of Cherokee set out on an expedition to California looking for new settlement
lands. The expedition followed the Arkansas River upstream to Rocky Mountains in present-day
Colorado, then followed the base of mountains northward into present-day Wyoming before
turning westward. The route become known as the Cherokee Trail. The group, which undertook
gold prospecting in California, returned along the same route the following year, noticing placer
gold deposits in tributaries of the South Platte. The discovery went unnoticed for a decade but
eventually became of the primary sources of the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859.
Other Cherokees in western North Carolina served as part of Thomas' Legion, a unit of
approximately 1,100 men of both Cherokee and white origin, fighting primarily in Virginia, where
their battle record was outstanding. Thomas' Legion was the last Confederate unit to surrender
in North Carolina, at Waynesville, North Carolina on May 9, 1865.
The Cherokee Nation citizens lost their right to elect their own chief in 1907 when Oklahoma
became a state. Various chiefs were appointed by the Presidents until 1970 when the
Cherokees regained their right to elect their own government via a Congressional Act signed by
President Nixon. W. W. Keeler was the first elected chief of The Cherokee Nation. Keeler, who
was also the President of Phillips Petroleum was succeeded by Ross Swimmer, Wilma
Mankiller, Joe Byrd and Chad Smith who is currently the chief of The Cherokee Nation.
Principal Chief Chad Smith